Breaking Investigative Report:
Soldiers and militiamen report Wagner training in ultraviolent techniques, including how to cut fingers and legs, remove nails, strangle, throw fuel and burn people alive
June 27, 2023 (Washington DC / Bangui) – A major new investigative report released today reveals how Vladimir Putin’s “private army,” the paramilitary Wagner Group, has for years with the support of Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra been testing and perfecting a nightmarish “blueprint” for state capture, deploying orchestrated violence so extreme that even hardened national soldiers and local militias under Wagner’s control describe living in a state of terror.
The Sentry’s investigative report, “Architects of Terror: The Wagner Group’s Blueprint for State Capture in the Central African Republic,” maps in deeply sourced detail how, in just five years, the Russian mercenary group has coopted the presidency, amassed military power, and created a complex network of operations to plunder diamonds, gold, and other natural resources, establishing Russia’s most fully developed beachhead in its strategy of international expansion, control, and projection of power.
Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator and head of the Wagner program at The Sentry, said: “The Central African Republic has become Wagner Group’s laboratory of terror. With a limited number of military personnel and the active support of President Touadéra, Wagner has managed in just five years to infiltrate and control CAR’s military chain of command, as well as the country’s political and economic systems. Russia has revealed its plan for psychological warfare and domination—a truly new kind of ultraviolent colonialism. Without urgent and coordinated global action to counter this threat, Wagner’s predatory terrorist network will continue to spread and sow devastation wherever it takes root.”
The Sentry’s investigation exposes the modus operandi that has enabled Wagner—with the support of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra—to exert significant control over CAR’s political and military leadership, as well as the country’s economy. The investigation team reviewed photos, satellite images, videos, and documents and conducted interviews with an array of firsthand sources, including victims and witnesses of atrocities, as well as members of the Central African Armed Forces and militias deployed in Wagner’s military operations.
In its investigation, The Sentry obtained evidence confirming the involvement of a who’s who of Wagner commanders and bosses, Central African soldiers, and militias trained and equipped by Wagner in perpetrating campaigns of psychological terror and actions that could qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to soldiers interviewed by The Sentry, the motto of their Wagner controllers is “leave no trace”—in other words, kill everyone, including women and children.
Charles Cater, Director of investigations at The Sentry, said: “Preying on instability and weak states, the Wagner Group has instrumentalized violence in an unchecked pursuit of economic resources and political power, with horrific consequences for civilian populations. Nowhere has this threat been more evident than in the Central African Republic, whose increasingly compromised sovereignty should serve as a stark warning to other governments in Africa and elsewhere. For those concerned with peace, democracy, and human rights, complacency is not an option.”
CAR had the worst death rate in the world over the last year, more than double anywhere else, according to a 2023 Columbia University report, which directly linked the scale of death to Wagner’s presence.
Selected excerpts from the report:
Key recommendations in the report:
The international community—critically including African states—has an array of tools to counter Wagner’s malign presence in CAR, on the African continent, and more broadly around the world where the group is currently engaged or preparing to engage.
Read the full report: https://thesentry.org/
For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, [email protected]
About The Sentry
(Short descriptor for press use: “The Sentry, an investigative organization that tracks corruption”)
The Sentry is an investigative and policy organization that seeks to disable multinational predatory networks that benefit from violent conflict, repression, and kleptocracy. Pull back the curtain on wars, mass atrocities, and other human rights abuses, and you’ll find grand corruption and unchecked greed. These tragedies persist because the perpetrators rarely face meaningful consequences. The Sentry aims to alter the warped incentive structures that continually undermine peace and good governance. Our investigations follow the money as it is laundered from war zones to financial centers around the world. We provide evidence and strategies for governments, banks, and law enforcement to hold the perpetrators and enablers of violence and corruption to account. These efforts provide new leverage for human rights, peace, and anti-corruption efforts.
Learn more: www.TheSentry.org